Awareness of our core goodness - both personally and nationally - gives us the strength to face our own flaws and incompleteness.
The desert is a place of paradox, insofar as it is both sublimely beautiful AND lacking in water, which is a major factor in the scarcity of life-forms it can support. Similarly, a major aspect of spiritual maturity is the ability both to practice introspective self-critique and to identify ourselves with our core self, which is fundamentally BEAUTIFUL and GOOD. In fact, it is a recognition of this core goodness that gives us the power to admit to - and seek to transform - the foibles present within our shallow self, or what is often called "the false self." While this awareness of the existence of the deep self is necessary in helping us face and deal with the FAULTS of the shallow self, a simultaneous awareness of the INCOMPLETE nature of our personality (a lack which is NOT a fault) correspondingly helps us extend our awareness laterally in order to find the parts of our true self that reside in other people (and within other species and landscapes). For just as our flaws are best dealt with by going deeper, so our incompleteness is healed when we focus on the positive mirrorings that other beings composing the great Web of Life perform for us.
The same principle carries over to our ability to critique our own nation. For some reason, many people have a tendency to spurn national self-criticism as ungrateful and unpatriotic. "Love it or leave it" is their motto, as though one's love of country excludes the ability to criticize it as well. But the reason why we are able to admit to our nation's sins and flaws is because we understand that the core principles upon which it is founded - i.e. , democracy, broadmindedness and social justice - remain ever-present at a deeper level even when we fail as a country to live up to those principles. Similarly - and this point is very important - we find the strength to face the partial and incomplete aspects of our national identity by looking laterally and realizing that other countries do indeed make up for what we lack, and vice versa. They are an integral part of our national identity, just as we are of them. This understanding prevents us from becoming unjustifiably arrogant and helps us realize that we are forever LEARNING from other nations, just as they seek perpetually to learn from us :)
Photos: Canyonlands National Park, UT, November 28-30, 2015
Stephen Hatch, M.A. is a spiritual teacher and photographer from Fort Collins, Colorado. His approach is contemplative, inter-spiritual, and Earth-based.